The Poor Man’s Galapagos, Ecuador
Isla de la Plata. Island of the Silver, ironically named in contrast to the traveler appropriated name, The Poor Man’s Galapagos. An hour by boat off the coast of Ecuador, leaving out of the town of Puerto Lopez, the Poor Man Galapago’s is an island oasis to see various types of birds, turtles, and dolphins.
Overall I’m glad that I went, especially because I didn’t have the money to visit the Galapagos on this trip, but I’m sure if you’ve been to the Galapagos, or aren’t interested in birds, then this might not be the trip for you.
Here’s what we saw:
After that, we saw lots of juvenile blue footed boobies (who actually have pale grey feet until they mature adn then have blue feet). Nazca boobies, and allegedly there are red footed boobies, but they are hard to see. There are frigate birds as well, which we saw quite a few flying about.
I chose the group that did the longer hike on the island (get my money’s worth), but that meant we didn’t see the turtles. The other group did, so if you’re interested in seeing the turtles, do the shorter walk.
After about a 2 hour hike, we made our way back to the boat, had lunch, and went “snorkeling”.
For those who have been snorkeling in Australia, the Caribbean, or even Hawaii, this really isn’t much. There are a few fish, but the water is fairly open, so the environment is not the best for tons of colorful little fish. I ended up spending the 25 minutes just swimming and floating about. If you go with the expectation of seeing a lot of fish, you’re going to be fairly let down.
After swimming for a short while, we made our way back to Puerto Lopez, where we ended up seeing more dolphins on the way back.
Here’s what we ate and what I asked for:
When we first got on the boat, they gave us bananas and banana cake bread. Obviously the banana cake bread was not vegan, but the bananas were nice.
After the hike, we had pineapple slices, watermelon slices, and sandwiches. Their vegetarian option involved basic cheese sandwiches. I had asked for a vegan option, and the tour operator told me he’d give the guides lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers to make a mini vegan sandwich for me. The idea was nice, but they kind of forgot and ended up pulling apart a cheese sandwich and making mine with that bread.
Obviously, it depends on your tour operator, but if just ask about their vegan/vegetarian options, they most likely can make you something separate and ensure there is fruit to snack on. If I’d do it again, I’d probably bring a few extra things just in case. (Don’t forget the water and sunscreen!)
Lonely Planet recommends a few companies, and you can definitely check TripAdvisor. I went with Machalilla Tours and was fairly content for what it was, though they did start very very late.
If you have the money, and like boats, it’s definitely a nice day trip.
I didn’t go, but for other “Galapagos like islands” check out the Ballestas in Southern Peru. Those islands have more mammals than birds, so depending on what you’re interested in…